In Accra, urban farming is responsible for 90 percent of the city’s fresh vegetables and 46 percent of the capital’s households are involved in it, according to a 2012 report published by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).
However, despite the popularity of urban farming, it operates on the peripheries of urban planning – largely ignored in the development strategies of cities such as Accra. Arguably one of the biggest obstacles to thriving urban agriculture in Accra and other African cities is weak or non-existent official governmental policy to support it.
The urban poor are also considered more vulnerable to rising food prices than the rural poor, according to a 2008 report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Growing crops in city gardens is “a potentially viable policy response to the complex challenge of feeding a burgeoning mass of urban residents amidst decline in food production in rural areas,” according to the ACBF report.
With the Africa Development Bank estimating that Africa’s population will reach 1.6 billion by 2030, in contrast to 1 billion in 2010, the need for and implementation of urban agriculture policies is urgent.
Urban planners and policymakers need to consider how to balance population growth and the growing pressures emerging in many African cities with the need to ensure urban food security.
Urban farming does not need to be restricted to growing food on private property.
Governments could supply financial grants for urban and peri-urban farmers, land provision for specific agricultural use, agricultural and nutritional education programmes, irrigation assistance, and easy access to local markets.
These skills and equipment could potentially be applied in an urban setting too, allowing for urban farmers to gain more than transport money each month, with the possibility of long-term saving for impoverished families.
Food produced within the city could mean cheaper transport costs and more affordable monthly groceries for urban families in the surrounding area. As urban farmers can also choose, for the most part, what crops to plant this could lead to a potentially more diverse, more nutrient-rich diet for city dwellers.
As a collective, growing movement, urban and peri-urban farmers in developing countries need to be acknowledged, empowered and supported by government and civil society.